The new plan would allow the authority to tell people when they might expect to move into public housing.
The Lawrence Housing Authority is revamping its public housing preference system to ensure that people don't continue to languish on a waiting list for years.
After examining housing assistance trends in Lawrence, the housing authority found that certain groups of people -- families and the working poor foremost among them -- seemed stuck on the waiting list, while others jumped to the top.
There are now 266 applicants waiting for public housing.
"The interactions of all the preferences are what determined who got housing," LHA director Barbara Huppee said. That meant that someone in dire need of housing might not get it unless that person was elderly, disabled and in a working family.
The new plan prioritizes only Douglas County residents and the time and date of application, creating a first-come, first-serve system.
Two people attended a public hearing about the change Tuesday night at the LHA administrative offices, and, although supportive overall, voiced some concerns.
"We need to have people understand the rules of how to get assistance," said Bob Banning, who has been trying to house his disabled son for three years. Banning said if he had understood the old preference system better, he might have found housing sooner.
Saunny Scott, who works with the homeless at the Community Drop-In Center, still had concerns that some people who are not a high priority would not get housing. Under federal law, single people are the lowest priority.
Huppee said that while her office was trying to remedy some of the inequities of the old system, the new system would not ignore special populations. Several housing programs focus only on the elderly, disabled and families, and the general population is not eligible.
The housing preference changes are also part of the framework for sweeping housing reforms as part of a program to move families to work.
Lawrence was selected as one of 23 national demonstration sites to test new housing policies. The changes are designed to encourage able-bodied people to get off assistance and get back to work.
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